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Real life: How to eat like a Warrior

We visit the Warriors headquarters and find out what it takes to power up the team.

Anna Rolleston is the nutritionist for the Vodafone NZ Warriors. We talked to her about how she works with the team to help them perform at their best.

Where do you begin when working with the Warriors?

“My first job is making sure the players’ ‘baseline nutrition’ is optimal – their day-to-day eating. Then I can assess their training, pre-game and post-game nutrition. If they’re eating really well day-to-day, I can optimise their competition performance. But if their baseline nutrition is poor, focusing on their performance nutrition won’t be as beneficial, and I need to get them on the right track with their everyday eating first.”

What issues have you come across while working with the team?

“Some of the guys had poor knowledge about why they should make good nutritional choices. They’ve been told to eat ‘good foods’, and to avoid not-so-good foods, but I found that not many knew why they should be making those choices. So I had to go back to basics with a bit of nutrition education!

“Another issue is getting the best possible recovery with nutrition and hydration. The ideal is that they eat and drink as soon as possible after training or games. This is an ongoing issue, especially after games when some  players do not eat or rehydrate as quickly as I’d like them to.”

How important is nutrition for performance on the field?

“It makes a big difference! Adaptation is the point of training –  we want an athlete’s body (their muscles, bones and brain) to adapt to the training they’ve done to make them faster or stronger. They will adapt better with optimal nutrient intake, adequate calorie intake and hydration.

“With league players, fatigue and lethargy are related to nutritional deficits. The rugby league season is long and strenuous and players must maintain good nutrition and hydration throughout the whole season to cope with the fatigue which is largely inevitable in their sporting environment. A team that can hold off its fatigue longer tends to perform better.”

With 91 appearances in the Warriors jersey to his credit, 23-year-old Sam Rapira is a seasoned pro on the field. But when it comes to nutrition, he has learnt a few tricks this year working with Anna.

“I was eating three big meals a day, but I’d always be hungry. Anna told me I wasn’t eating enough, or often enough. I’d eat breakfast before training and then not eat again until one or two in the afternoon. Now I eat regular small meals and snacks to keep my energy up all day.”

Sam says the changes to his diet have helped his on-field performance.

“It’s much better now. I’m a lot better injury-wise, and I think now I’m eating right it helps with recovery the next day. I know the crucial time to eat and drink is 15-20 minutes after a game.”

Sam is motivated to stick to his healthy eating regime by being a healthy eating role-model for his 16-month-old daughter.

“We have healthy stuff at home because of her… I think she helps me stay focused.”

Nutritionist Anna says, “I gave Sam structure for his daily eating. He used to be hungry a lot and wasn’t eating enough. I talked with him about the types of food to eat, when to eat them – he needed to eat more frequently – and portion sizes.”

Monday

  • Breakfast: Porridge with wholegrain oats and fruit
  • Morning tea: Creamed rice with frozen berries
  • Lunch: Jacket kumara with green beans, spring onion and spinach
  • Afternoon tea: Mini-pizza – wholemeal pita with a tomato pasta sauce, mushrooms, capsicum and shredded chicken, fruit juice
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon with salad of dark leafy greens and colourful vegetables and baked kumara

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Muesli with yoghurt and fruit
  • Morning tea: Corn thins with cottage cheese
  • Lunch: Sushi
  • Afternoon tea: Handful scroggin, fruit juice
  • Dinner: Chicken stir-fry, 1/2 cup brown rice, frozen stir-fry vegetable mix plus a root vegetable

Wednesday – free food day (eat what you like)

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Muesli with yoghurt and fruit
  • Morning tea: Creamed rice with frozen berries
  • Lunch: Sandwich with smoked chicken, dark leafy greens and colourful vegetables, hummus and seeds
  • Afternoon tea: Mini-pizza – wholemeal pita with a tomato pasta sauce, mushrooms, capsicum and shredded chicken, fruit juice
  • Dinner: Green curry with eggplant and kumara

Friday

  • Breakfast: Porridge with wholegrain oats and fruit
  • Morning tea: Corn thins with cottage cheese
  • Lunch: Chicken sandwich with 1/2 avocado and spinach, fruit
  • Afternoon tea: Handful scroggin, fruit juice
  • Dinner: Chilli con carne served with vegetables

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Muesli with yoghurt and fruit
  • Morning tea: Mixed berry and bran muffin, fruit
  • Lunch: Sushi
  • Afternoon tea: Nut-based bar, chunk of edam cheese and fruit juice
  • Dinner: Baked fish, tomato, red onion and capsicum with lemon salsa and baked potato

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Porridge with wholegrain oats and fruit
  • Morning tea: Bran muffin and fruit
  • Lunch: Tuna salad with dark leafy greens and colourful vegetables, grainy bread
  • Afternoon tea: Nut-based bar, chunk of edam cheese and fruit juice
  • Dinner: Miso soup with nori strips, chicken, mushrooms, courgettes and mung beans with udon noodles

*ANNA NOTES: Portions are not prescribed but as you can imagine, to feed an athlete, portions are larger than the norm.




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